NEW YORK (April 10, 1998 01:49 a.m. EDT http://www.nando.net) - The destructive El Nino weather pattern may be linked to rising temperatures over the last 40 years, portending more floods, droughts, economic upheaval and human misery, the top U.S. weather agency said Thursday.
Commenting for the first time on the relationship between El Nino and global warming, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the unusual and extreme weather of the past winter may be a "window on the future."
"El Nino is a taste of what we might expect if the Earth warms as we now project," NOAA's top administrator James Baker said in a prepared statement.
Torrential rains in California and Peru in the last few months were the result of El Nino, as were droughts and wildfires in many parts of southeast Asia.
El Nino is a weather pattern characterized by a movement of warm water currents in the Pacific Ocean to areas farther north than usual, which in turn brings radical changes to weather around the planet.
Though stopping short of directly linking El Nino and global warming, NOAA spokeswoman Lori Arguelles told Reuters that the rising incidence of El Nino in recent decades correlated with rising temperatures.
"El Nino is not global warming, but the two are related," Arguelles said in a telephone interview.
"We've been seeing more frequent El Ninos in the last 40 years, but El Nino has been occurring for thousands of years," she said.
Asked why the weather agency chose to go public with its message at this time, Arguelles said that the record temperatures and rainfall in January and February were the deciding factors.
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